Continued from last week's blog post, You Can Get Anything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant.
The next Tuesday I skipped school for the second time in my life (the Army was turning me into a regular truant), and at 7 in the morning, I was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Draft Board office wishing I had worn a heavier sweater. At 7:03 am, according to my watch and 7:06 according to the clock outside the bank at the next corner, the door was unlocked and I was allowed in.
First, it wasn’t really a lobby or reception area, but a short, thoroughly dingy and dimly lighted hallway. The person who had unlocked the door was no longer in sight, which was weird because there was no other door visible. There were no benches or chairs, and no effort had been spared to make you feel uninvited and unwelcome. It smelled of fear and resignation, with a slight memory of Pine-Sol. At the far end was a single window with a very small ledge for filling out papers. The window had a very stout metal grating over it that had clearly been designed to keep anything smaller and less determined than an angry African war elephant on the outside. On the counter, on the other side of the grating, was a bell to ring if you wanted service. Years of dealing with the bitter bureaucrats and angry-for-no-particular-reason office workers at the hospital had trained me not to touch the bell even if I could have reached it.
After a few minutes of standing patiently and humming quietly to myself in a way that said, “Please take no notice of me; I’m just remembering a song I like and am not in any way trying to draw attention to myself or interrupt your vitally important work,” an elderly woman came to the window and politely snarled, “What do you want?”It was clear that out of an infinite number of irritations and interruptions vying for her attention on the off chance they could tick her off further, I was being singled out as the most irritating within sight.
“Yes, Ma’am. I need to appeal my draft classification, please."
“Well, you see, I was classified 1-A, but I have hemophilia and...”
"You need to fill out form 74Y-mumble-mumble.”
“Yes, that’s the one. If I could just have one, please, I could fill it out for you right now.”
“I don’t feel like looking for it,” she said. And walked away.
Of all the responses I had imagined to my request, that one had completely failed to occur to me. I stood there groping for a snappy comeback—or any comeback, for that matter—but was only able to come up with a puzzled “OK.” Now, I will admit that certain details have been given a somewhat dramatic description to heighten whatever the effect is that I’m attempting to create. By that, I mean I might have described the entrance as a bit gloomier than it was—there might have been a light on—and the lady might not have snarled so much as hissed, but this whole unlikely episode happened essentially just as I am telling it, taking into account an occasional bit of hyperbole. So, I swear those were her exact words. She knew I needed form 74Y-mumble-mumble to file my appeal. She knew I had the right to file that appeal. She didn’t see what that had to do with her, and she wasn’t going to interrupt her coffee break to look for some damn form for some whiny kid who didn’t want to do his duty. I was 1-A, and I was going to stay 1-A. Petty details like hemophilia were not going to change things.
As I drove home, I tried once again to make sense of the universe. When I was going into seventh grade, Mom had asked the school that I be excused from gym class, and the school had refused. Then I spent almost the entire year in the hospital, and the next year they wanted to assign a “buddy” in math so I wouldn’t poke myself with a compass. Hemophilia was supposed to be an automatic 4-F, but I was 1-A. I had the right to appeal my classification, but I didn’t have the right to have the proper form found.It was all very confusing.
The next fall when I registered for classes at Eastern Michigan University, one of the punch cards in my packet was for applying for a student deferment to the draft, known as a 2-S. I filled it out, and in a few weeks I received a new draft card showing I had been given the temporary classification of 2-S. Unless I flunked out, I was safe for a year. After my freshman year, I decided to confront things head on and did not renew my 2-S classification.
Read the finale of the Massacree now.
Read more Guy Boss at the Missing Factor.